It started off with a lift, how did it end up like this?

Many people tout the health benefits of dancing, and dances like chacha and jive can burn upwards of 400 calories an hour. But did you know you can actually lose weight dancing? Here is my story of how ballroom dancing helped me lose over 15 pounds…and better yet, I’ve managed to keep it off for the past two years!

In high school participating in colorguard and having a teenage metabolism meant I didn’t have to hit the gym and that I could eat junk without seeing much impact to my body. But then college came with the all-you-can-eat dining hall. I also discovered alcoholic beverages, which unfortunately do have calories, and often lead to late night eating.  I quickly discovered that the freshman 15 is a very real thing.  By the time I graduated that extra 15 pounds had grown closer to 25… ☹ Now I realize that bodies evolve and for most of us, maintaining our high school weight is unattainable. Nevertheless, I didn’t feel very pretty and I didn’t like the number I saw on my jeans.

The catalyst for change came a few years after graduating. I had signed up to perform a ballroom showcase, and the choreographer put 2 lifts in it. One of which I couldn’t even jump into to help my partner. He was supposed to pick me up around my rib cage and I would “walk” my feet through the air in slow motion for 8 counts.  I felt like dead weight and was soooo self-conscious about how heavy I must be. What if lifting me hurt his back?!  Now, to his credit, he never complained or made a negative comment, but getting this choreography was the turning point for me. I didn’t want to be heavy, I wanted to be easy to lift!

So I made some changes:

  • I stopped eating when I was bored
  • I became more mindful about portion sizes
  • I cut out alcohol
  • Cut back on sweets
  • Drank more water and tea
  • Increased my workouts (both gym and dancing)
  • Added more fresh fruits and veggies to my diet

And despite the fact that our showcase performance was in early January, I managed to stay dedicated throughout the holiday season. Every time I was tempted to reach for a cookie or slice of pie I thought of my partner lifting me. And it worked.

Now everyone is different, but for me I don’t like weighing myself and don’t even own a scale. My mottos is “I don’t need that kind of negativity in my life.”  I know the scale causes me to get caught up on the number and get frustrated when I’m not seeing the progress I want. Daily weigh-ins work for some people, but not for me. I’d rather focus on how my clothes fit and how my body is getting stronger (ex: being able to run faster or hold a plank longer).  I started focusing on health in November 2016 and over the next few months had people (dance partner included) telling me I looked great and asking how much I had lost. When I finally stepped on a scale again in April 2017 I was thrilled to see I had lost 15 pounds. My body felt so much better, and I started dressing cuter because I finally had a body I was proud of.  

I’ve seen this happen with many of the regulars at my dance studio. In some cases, dancing alone sheds the weight, and in other cases some aspect of dancing inspires them to change other habits too. Now that I’m in maintenance mode I only “workout” 1-2 hours a week, the rest of my weekly exercise is dancing. How lucky we are to have a passion that isn’t just fun, but also good exercise!

If you are looking for some #fitspo (that’s fitness inspiration for those who don’t speak millennial), follow my friend Jill on her FineFitLife account on Instagram or facebook. She’s a ballroom dancer too! As a teenager Jill decided to turn her life around by prioritizing health, and she ended up losing 80 pounds! She shares encouragement and tasty, healthy food on her account.

Has dance being a catalyst in your health and fitness journey? Comment below, I’d love to hear about it! 😊

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